WWI food committee

During the early stages of World War I, food prices and prices for other everyday commodities began to rise as a result of blockades and shutdowns of trade routes between different countries. Discussions were started within Ericsson's production plants to counteract rising prices and profiteering that was starting to spread throughout society. A committee was formed to provide food products as cheaply as possible to Ericsson employees.

At a local union meeting in April 1914, a food committee was elected and comprised the following members: O Jacobsson, chairman; C A Fridh, treasurer; Albin Pettersson, secretary; O Meijer, deputy secretary; Fritz Mårtensson, V Sjögren and A Eriksson. The committee was established to purchase and provide food products for factory employees, thereby helping to alleviate effects of the crisis in Europe.

The committee received the immediate support of the company, and Hemming Johansson, the president of Ericsson, allowed the committee to use the foreman's office for meetings. In those days, trade unions did not have any offices of their own at the company.

The food committee was also provided with space for storage and sales of food products (one room and a kitchen). In addition, Hemming Johansson granted the committee a loan for larger purchases of food products and other essential commodities such as laundry detergent, etc. Members of the food committee were also entitled to their regular wages while working for the committee (negotiations and procurements). The company also paid the salaries of the manager and assistants who operated the committee's store, storage facilities and short-distance transports.

At a committee meeting in the early stages of the food store's operations, it was decided by unanimous decision that the store "would not under any circumstances apply the type of credit systems available in privately owned shops." All purchases would be paid in cash, and no credit would be granted in the personnel store. The policy was strictly enforced.

The selection of food products available in the store was gradually expanded. Initially, the food committee concentrated its procurements on "products that are most important to private households," as declared in the minutes of a committee meeting in May 1915. These products included wheat flour, rye flour, cubed sugar, granulated sugar, porridge, yellow peas, potatoes, herring, crisp bread, margarine, biscuits and coffee. After a few years (1919), the committee also ordered textiles from England, which were used to make suits that a tailor provided for prospective buyers among factory employees.

The activities also laid the foundation for a canteen that was opened in 1917. With the support of the local shop union, Bratts restaurant food service was commissioned to operate the cafeteria, which served both breakfast and lunch for Ericsson employees. Many employees lived relatively close to the production plants, and ate breakfast and lunch at home. In those days, before the eight-hour day was introduced in 1920, lunch and other breaks were longer. Other employees brought food from home and ate their meals next to their machines or workbenches. As a condition of the contract with Bratts, all raw materials for the cafeteria were purchased from the food committee's store.

When the war ended, and trade conditions in Sweden and other countries started to return to normal, the food committee discontinued its activities (1920), but the operations of the company store continued under the management of a newly formed Employees' Interest Group.

After a series of temporary solutions, due mainly to a lack of suitable and available premises, the canteen was eventually provided a fixed location when the company opened its large, modern cafeteria facilities at Midsommarkransen in the beginning of the 1940s.

Author: Bill Sund

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1 comment
  • You saved me a lot of haslse just now.

    by Kendra

    You saved me a lot of haslse just now.